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organ meats?

Since coming to chowhound sometime last year, the topic of organ meats has often come up, and I've found the idea more and more intriguing (i.e. "I should try that"). People seem almost orgasmic over the thought of foie gras.

Here's the thing - I've tried and absolutely hate liver (chicken and beef are the only one's I'm aware I've tried), and had chicken gizzards and hearts (both intentionally, to try; and inadvertently, when included in rice dressing or gumbo without my knowing) and hope never to again!

So, given this, should I just rule out organ meats, or are they significantly different in taste/texture among the different organs/animals? Have people who despise liver loved foie gras???

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  1. While I love liver, I can understand why some people don't due to its rather strong flavor. gizzards are pretty mild as innards go... so not sure what to say on that. Is it the mental part of innards that gets to you? If so try to get that out of your mind as if you eat hot dogs you are eating innards. I think in general it is better to try innards at a restaurant first as cooking at home is harder due to odors and the complication of some dishes. I think the Greeks, Italians,then the Chinese prepare the best innards IMO. I am not sure if tongue is concidered an innard, but if so give it a shot. It is among the best. Sweetbreads are also good, but for anything other than diehards they may be hard to take. If you want to dip your toe in the innard pool, try Vietmanese Pho with tripe. The pieces are tiny and tasty and if you don't like it, it probably is in your head. I love the CHinese tripe, but the flavor can be very strong...move up to that. If you do have liver, lamb and calf is milder than full grown animals. Brains are mild...but given what they are, they can be worked up too. For me no innard if off limits although psychologically for some reason kidneys are the hardest to take.

    1. I happen to love offal. Foie gras, of course (although not commonly considered offal), but also chicken livers (believe it or not, Mexican cuisine is an excellent way to try these), sweetbreads, etc. I think the strong flavor is wonderful. Have you tried sweetbreads? They're pretty mild actually, and a textural delight.

      1. I too hate straight liver - beef and chicken both but adore foie gras. It should be said that I also enjoy really good chopped liver of both varieties which, to me, are more of a pate like thing than actual liver. Other than those I do like gizzards if they're cooked long and slow as in a fricasee and I love sweetbreads. Never had the stomach (no pun intended) to go further than those. Oh, accidentally had kidney in England - hated it. Try sweetbreads. I agree with Bostonbob3, very mild and really nice texture.

        Then again, none of this is very healthy so maybe you're best to just continue avoiding? Keep us posted on your decision and results.

        4 Replies
        1. re: laylag

          Ummmm, I think liver is one of the healthiest things you can eat? No?

          I love fried chicken giblets (liver/heart/gizzard). I guess the frying isn't so healthy. I stopped buying whole chickens from Earth Fare because they don't include the giblets.

          I love foie gras and sweetbreads, too. Haven't tried the liver or kidneys of larger animals in a while.

          1. re: uptown jimmy

            liver used to be healthy, because it's full of iron. however, the liver functions as the body's main cleansing organ, "scrubbing" all of the blood that travels through it. thus the liver tries to filter out all toxins, which includes herbicides, pesticides, growth hormones, etc. current industrial farming practices bombard animals with these products. if i buy liver, i buy organic. organ meat is all very high in cholesterol, so should be eaten sparingly.

            1. re: uptown jimmy

              Can animals organ of elimination and discarding toxins be healthy? No.
              Not for consumption.

          2. I love offal but I'm Chinese and we'll eat just about anything. I grew up eating liver, kidneys, tripe and all kinds of strange things I can't find in a store today. I don't cook any of these often because they're not very healthy and DH is still a bit hesitant to dive into a batch of pork kidneys.

            I think a lot of the dislike is purely because of cultural differences - organ meats are regarded as lower in quality than muscle meat. Most of our friends have no hesitation about eating liver pates or chopped chicken liver but if asked will say they don't like liver.

            1. Thanks, all. Interesting feedback.

              It may be gizzards, rather than giblets, that I'm thinking of. Perhaps I'll try each on its own someday.

              As to the psychological aspect... I've put bites into my mouth that I didn't know contained liver and/or gizzards, and either spit them into my napkin or drowned them down with a beverage - it is not just in my head, it's a taste and texture thing. Of course, it's also somewhat in my head, but certainly not entirely!

              With regard to the cultural aspect - I've eaten tongue, and I vaguely recall eating brains (and maybe even liking it) a very long time ago, and I grew up eating all sorts of things that dad had shot, thumped, hooked, or trapped, so I don't think I'm ooked out because of that.

              I'll try sweetbreads and/or foie gras at my next promising opportunity out, and report back on how it goes! :-)

              1. I always liked chopped liver things (liverwurst, liver dumpings, pates, etc.) but not straight liver. Then I was presented with duck liver as part of a tasting menu and was too cool to not eat it--oh, what a revelation *rare* liver was! Turns out that what I don't like is chunks of well-done liver, not liver per se (same goes for kidney). And I thought I didn't like gizzards until I had them braised Portuguese style. Oops, wrong again, guess I like gizzards!

                1. my husband and i have been putting tentative feelers out into the culinary world of innards...we tried sweetbreads the other night, and they were amazing.

                  i'm interested in liver too, but a lot of traumatic childhood memories are keeping me from trying it again. But, like someone said, I might not have had it cooked the right way.

                  1. my mother used to boil liver for the dogs, and the smell made me gag. i was well into my 30s before i'd try foie gras. now i love it. sweetbreads are very mild, more a texture that absorbs flavors, kinda like tofu, lol.

                    stuff like kidney and heart just tastes too "organy" for me. i tried cooking pig intestines (chitlins? dunno, bought them in chinatown) once for my dog (who got lots of home-cooked chicken feet), and when i opened the package, the smell was so foul, i ran the whole thing outside to the trash immediately. yuk.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                      Besides proper preparation, it is the sauce, that makes it a joy to eat. Therefore, I congratulate the French and their masterful use of sauces, and a destination for the finer tastes.

                    2. Sweetbreads..steamed and then grilled with a brown butter sauce over them.

                        1. re: bkhuna

                          Best hangover cure ever. It actually works! (And it's delicious.)

                          1. re: Bostonbob3

                            Menudo is awesome! I get sad when people say they'd never even TRY it.

                        2. I prefer a 10 foot pole myself, but I will use disposable tongs or rubber gloves (Or what is refered to as personal protective equipment) in evicting those disgusting organs from my residence.

                          I don't know why, when I get a whole chicken or a roasting turkey they include those nasties stuffed into some orifice?

                          I know, to each their own.

                          1. I often wonder how we've developed the (Western?) notion that only select portions of the animals are to be eaten and the rest is just discarded. I love tenderloin, etc., but it seems shameful to kill the thing and not be willing to eat it snout to tail. I was raised this way (only certain cuts), but I've grown to enjoy tongue, sweetbreads, liver, oxtail, tripe, etc. Is it because cuts like tenderloin or loin strips don't really resemble a working part of the animal?

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: g rote

                              I understand, in Sardinia they have a recipe for every part of the animal, but the squeal! Probably true of others old world countries with a long food heritage. Sort of like in Portugal, where there is a recipe for anchovies for every day of the year! ;)

                            2. Livers and gizzards aside, it's that mysterious gnarly chicken "thigh organ" - the one hanging from a fatty thread and tucked inside the bone - that's such a turn-on.

                              Still trying to figure out its' function.

                              FYI - Back in the day, KFC ("The Colonel") made one helluva liver/gizzard combo - either Original or Extra Crispy!...Anyone ever try them? Now impossible to find here in Brooklyn, the one on Coney Island Avenue and Kings Highway had 'em eons ago. Much better in St. Louis though.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: Mike R.

                                Occasionally around poorer areas in the South and West I've seen that combo at Popeyes, KFC and Church's. Usually about a $1.99 and come with a biscuit or cornbread?

                                1. re: Mike R.

                                  I know - I've always loved that part - I had the claim on the chicken backs in my family! Plus, you get the delectable "oysters" on the same piece!

                                  1. re: Seldomsated

                                    Chicken has become so freakin' sanitized and perverted by "fingers", "fajitas" and other fry-shaped and standardized white meat preparations, that it still holds its' secrets for those of us in the know.

                                    Head straight for the carcass and don't look back!

                                2. Funny. :)

                                  I also like what my mom (respectfully) called the Pope's Nose on the turkey.

                                  Ass-flap basically, but I always get first-call on it for Thanksgiving. (Insert your joke here.)

                                  1. BC(before cholesterol)recipe: Fry bacon crisp (then remove from pan), onion slices sauteed in the bacon grease (remove from pan), then calf liver slices, salt & peppered, then dredged in flour, then browned in the bacon grease, then the onions and chopped fried bacon added back to the pan on top of the liver, put on a lid and let sit on low heat for a bit (do not over-cook) - one of my favorites (and I am sure hastened the need for triple bypass surgery) but it was delicious. Had to be calf liver. I have seen chicken livers cooked this way too, but now think liver may not be the safest thing to eat and for me bacon is supposed to be a no-no.

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: pralinepatty

                                      Thanks for the enhancement of the way to cook liver. But liver is mostly protein and does not have the fat of the muscle meats, so a diet with more liver would probably lower your cholestero!! Saute a couple of minutes on each side and add a little red wine, cover and let set for a few minutes.
                                      This works very well for Venison to reduce the wild taste, as well.

                                      1. re: nutrition

                                        Yes, yes - that is the best way for cooking liver, pralinepatty! I do a double-dredge in the flour, salt and pepper mixture - let the livers adjust to the first coat and come more to room temp, then dredge again, then saute and simmer. Makes the slices more tender and soft, plus helps thicken the sauce.

                                        1. re: nutrition

                                          Liver is high in cholestrol. High in protein too but definitely high in cholestrol.

                                        2. re: pralinepatty

                                          I always put the liver in milk for a half hour before I dredge in flour.

                                        3. I used to work for a snooty restaurant often mentioned on the sfbay board, and we had a dish of duck & tomato sauce over polenta. Well, the gizzard is part of the duck, isn't it? We took off the silver skin, chopped them and stewed them with tomatoes and onions, and it sold like hotcakes.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: Louise

                                            Louise's comment makes me laugh b/c I know more than one poser who won't eat giblets or any offal, until you call it foie gras. I would love to see an experiment where you take something like potted meat product (which actually is NOT good), dress it up, jack up the price, serve it at the glibbest place in town and try to pass it off to unsuspecting yuppies. As it happens, I love innards from the most humble to the fanciest-but for some if there is not a high price tag attached, it is disgusting.

                                          2. I love:
                                            heart (anticuchos)
                                            sweetbreads (grilled)

                                            Not so much,

                                            tripe and anything related to stomach (mondongo)
                                            A handy ingredient though I'm not sure what it is,
                                            cawl (sp?) fat (fatty lining of the stomach?)

                                            Preparation is key in all these.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. I just tried pigs ear yesterday in a szechuan restaurant. Quite good. A little like a crunchier squid

                                              1. We were brought up here in New England on steak and kidney pie, sauteed chicken giblets for breakfast, sweet & sour tongue (the best left meat over for sandwiches!) as well as liver & onions. We still enjoy all these meals, and all have reached a commendable number of years. Can't see what all the fuss is about!

                                                1. I don't think that ruling them out is the right approach. I am much like you in that I don't like many of them much but the right bit done the right way can be lovely.

                                                  I love foie gras, I like pan fried beef liver (but only very infrequently and it has to be served with bacon and onions), chicken livers I only eat if they're flash fried and covered in peri peri chili sauce (yum). I love stuffing, but if chicken liver is in there then I won't eat it.

                                                  Kidneys, only in steak and kidney pie/pudding.

                                                  Brains - never. It's a texture thing!

                                                  Gizzards, if they're done right, delicious (duck confit - drool).

                                                  I am always willing to try as my tastes have changed over the years, there are things I disliked as a child that I like very much now, olives for example are always in the house. I think we should both stay open to the idea of offal as it is important that all of the animal should be eaten. On the other hand if we still don't like it, then so be it!

                                                  1. "Have people who despise liver loved foie gras?"

                                                    Yes, and I'm one of them.

                                                    I have also developed an appreciation for heart and sweetbreads, but not so much kidney nor tripe.

                                                    1. Hmmm, anybody like chittlins (or "chitterlings")?

                                                      My buddy Reed from South Carolina does them up right.

                                                      He also makes unbelievable chicken livers, both fried and in a fab gravy.

                                                      I basically like all offal, but must say that I only enjoy tripe in menudo.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: Bostonbob3

                                                        It's "chitterlings". My grandfather loved them. He was a rare soul for modern times, though in his youth, in the South, it was a common menu item. Gotta eat what you got, you know. And it was hard times, back in the day....

                                                      2. My husband will not willingly eat alot of things....onions, garlic, bacon & just about every kind of vegetable among them....but he will not only eat chicken gizzards, liver & heart...he also loves tripe! I don't get it!

                                                        1. I am quite adventurous and have tried pretty much every type of offal meat mentioned above. In fact I love most of them. Foie Gras is probably the most popular and most widely-accepted by others because it is expensive and it is usually cooked by seasoned chefs and hence it tastes good. Other organ meats are usually cheap, and if not cooked right they can taste gamey or "stinky" or tough. Even if you don't like livers, you can still give foie gras a try. If you think it may be too expensive, you can go to Dean and Deluca or gourmet food store, and ask the butcher or the "ham guy" to give you a taste of foie gras mousse. Then you can get a sense of how it tastes like. The real foie gras will of course taste better and have a very different texture, but if you don't want to gamble you can do a little test run with foie gras mousse.

                                                          Also there is no reason you have to force yourself into eating organs. If you feel like trying them, go ahead! But if not, by all means try other gourmets like cheese or prociutto. There are too many good food out there to try!

                                                          1. I may be in the minority here so far, but the time that I had a lamb brains and sweetbreads appetizer, I actually really liked it. Admittedly, it was on a dare, and I think it helped that it was at a restaurant where they knew what they were doing, although I'm not exactly sure how they prepared it; but it was sort of sauteed and without sauce? but the effect was sort of like pate. I had it with some bread and halloumi. Also, it was in New Zealand where they don't have mad cow/sheep/squirrel, so I wasn't betting my sanity!

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: tomato

                                                              Hi I assured you that you are not the minority here (or at least I am with you) ;)

                                                            2. Nobody's mentioned stomach, yet, I don't think. Stuffed pig's stomach (potatoes, onion and sausage inside) was one of my mom's oddest preparations, but have to say - it was better than it sounds! The skin gets crisp, and the whole thing puffs up when baked, like a football!

                                                              When I was married, we made lamb's head once in awhile. Do it up with onions and S&P in a pressure cooker. Brains - bland and soft (but reputed to make you smart!); tongue - excellent savory, tender meat; face meat - similar to the tongue, but not as dense; the eyeballs - uh, "let" my husband have those!

                                                              1. good ankimo is like foie gras. Monkfish liver, delicious.

                                                                Also shiokara(fermented squid guts) are delicious if you like that sort of thing

                                                                2 Replies
                                                                1. re: MVNYC

                                                                  Okay, I know my goal was to be adventuresome, but no way, nuh-uh, am I eating fish guts. I'd say "sorry", but it would be a lie!!


                                                                  1. re: abowes

                                                                    My motto is, its all meat. Whats the difference?

                                                                    Good shiokara is a treat , sweet, salty, unami.

                                                                2. Shall I confess that I've also never eaten truffles? Well, a local restaurant (with food and chef that I'm quite crazy about/impressed with) just announced the following special menu dinner. I'm on board, and will report back. (I figure, if I don't like 'em when Charlie fixes 'em, then I probably just don't like 'em!!)

                                                                  Truffled Duck liver pate with black rice toast and warm salad of frisee and five-spice confit of duck heart and gizzards

                                                                  Seared sweetbreads, foie gras, and sea scallop with white truffle, and lemon

                                                                  Braised beef tongue with carrot-scallion wontons, black truffle and shaoxing broth

                                                                  Star-anise braised tripe with Chinese bacon, bok choy, and black truffle jook

                                                                  Assorted stinky cheeses with truffled chocolate truffles

                                                                  1. While I've always liked liver and onions (as long as its not cooked to a rubber-like consistency), I shudder to remember a period when my wife fell under the spell of Adele Davis and several other food "gurus". One thing that helped shake her out of it was the breakfast when our three small kids tearfully pleaded in chorus, "Pleaaase, not fried heart agaaaain!"